Monday, June 14, 2010

A Fond farewell

so here's some pics of me and my Mobile Transactions colleagues saying goodbye.

Above is Tresphord our first ever champion agent. He started by handing out flyers and is now a proper little business man, he's even started dressing like an English country gentleman.

Leshain, our accountant visiting from Cape Town and Memory my Marketing assistant.

The brains trust; above left Dave MBA from Yale and right Mike Masters from LSE & Oxford

From left to right: Tresphord, Danny, Max, Leshain, Memory, Claudius, Misozi & Teddy

Memory & Misozi leading the goodbyes

Everyone had written messages on what Claudius called my Turin shroud

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Zanzibar 2010

So the day has finally arrived, I'm meeting Helen at Dar airport today and then flying on to Zanzibar, can't wait. I'm feeling a little weary as I was up late last night celebrating Alisdair's birthday with Ben, Marte and Rosie. All VSOs other than Marte who is a diplomat with the Norwegian gvt and Ben's girlfriend. They are taking the train to Dar and the ferry over to Zanzibar so will be there roughly the same time as us. So I was little taken aback to see them in the cafe at the airport. It turns out that those kindly chaps at Tazara for no reason had decided to cancel the train. So after a bit of a mad dash they'd managed to get to Lusaka airport and get a couple of seats on my flight. So a few texts later Helen has managed to get them seats on the Dar to Zanzibar flight an we're all set.
Sadly the taxi driver booked wasn't waiting for us but we managed to score a deal with Omar who took us to "Red Monkey" in Jambiani our first stop.

It's a little run down but boasts a fabulous spot on the beach and our bungalow has uninterrupted views up and down the beach. This end of the beach is where Jambiani village is so we see a lot of fishermen action and get the local kids running around screaming and playing footy on the beach, which is great fun most of the time except earlymorning...

The first day was beautiful but short lived... the rain set in for a few days with brief spots of sunshine to tease us. Mind you when it rains it really does so at least the weather was quite exciting. Although frankly, it didn't really matter it was just great to be together again after 3 months. We spent 6 nights in Jambiani, the highlight being coming 3rd in the Pub quiz competition held at Coral Rock (Local Resort) and won free shooters, sadly with some pretty revolting names. From there we moved on to the Dhow Inn at Paje beach.

The Dhow Inn is a rather fancy boutique hotel with just 6 roomsbuilt around a courtyard, it's about 50m from the beach but has a pool to make up for it. The only problem we had here was that on Saturday night a bunch of students turned up at midnight to start a party, planned to go on til 6am. THere was a time I'd have welcomed this but sadly nowadays I'm the grumpy old git who needs his sleep (I know...) so after a number of polite requests failed to quell the excitement I let out Mr Angry which did the trick and closed the party down. To be fair it was 4am by then so I think they got a fair crack. We got a free dinner out of it so not a complete lost cause. The weather brightened up here and we had some rain free days.

By the time we got to Stonetown the weather was perfect, typical now we've left the beach. After a stroll around and a bit of shopping we end up at the Africa House Hotel for sundowners.

We stayed at the Southern Sun in Dar for our last night and had dinner next to "Tatiana" the runner up of Big Brother Africa and her entourage of flunkies which was entertaining. It seems that D list celebs act the same all over the world.
It's tough saying goodbye, on the positive side in another 10wks we'll be together for 3 months.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My new home

Hi all, my latest update. I've now moved from Northmead to the leafy suburb of Kabulonga. This was traditionally where the whites lived but is now much more cosmopolitan in fact Kenneth Kaunda lives here and just by is the ex wife of Chiluba (The guy who took over from KK. I live in the cottage (Previously known as servants quarters) of a much grander house which Mike & Isobel live in. Mike is my boss at Mobile Transactions. They're both really cool and have given me the run of the grounds including their rather lovely pool, I also get to use their wi-fi so life is really rather comfortable here. My cottage has a large lounge & dining room with a small but functional kitchen and ok bathroom (just need to get the shower sorted, and single bedroom.
On a work perspective things are pretty hectic but incredibly exciting, there's a palpable sense of achievement in the air. I've written and produced a TV ad and a couple of radio ads which have been on air for about a month now. Despite this our business continues to grow with Feb 40% up on Jan and Mar 50% up on Feb. We've also closed a couple of deals and are really close to nailing a mjor contract that will pretty much nail our targets for the yr in one go. Another fascinating aspect is an introduction to venture capitalism, The Grass roots Business fund have invested in us and visited a couple of weeks ago. They were impressed with what we were doing and the consultant they brought with them was very optimistic that we'd be able to attract quite significant investment.
In a couple of weeks I'm off to Zanzibar to meet up with Helen for an holiday. I've a friend there who's sorting us out with a nice deal for a fancy pants bungalow on the beach, not cheap but certainly a little bit of paradise.
That's all from me, remember I do have email so if anyone wants to drop me a line don't be scared ;-)

Monday, February 15, 2010


So I'm back in Lusaka and facing a whole new non VSO world. The most obvious disadvantage is nowhere to live, swiftly followed by having to do a full days work for a living, no more VSO siesta's!! The good news is that I've managed to bag a room in a fab flat for 8wks whilst I find a permanent home. I'm sharing with a Canadian ODI called Laura who works in the ministry of trade. The infamous Vinny also lives in our small compound

and is an ex ODI working in the ministry of trade. The best way to describe him is as a modern day Indian Arthur Daly and one of the shrewdest characters I've met since I've been here. Equally it's a shortish walk (25mins) to work in the morning which is great.
Even more exciting is the pool, darlings... which completes the ex pat lifestyle. At the end of the month I'm moving to Kabulonga, a posh suburb of Lusaka. I'll be renting the servants quarters (From now on to be known as the cottage) of Mike & Isobelle. Mike is canadian and the general manager of Mobile transactions ((The guy who got me on board). They have a lovely house in it's own grounds (Built by a Scandinavian, so a little unusual), I think it's gonna be great, as long as we can avoid talking work 24/7.

Mutinondo Wilderness

It's Friday lunchtime, some 8hrs after we left and the dirt, dust & heat was worth it. This is the view from our Chalet in Mutinondo, overlooking the valley in full "Flush" The "Flush" is where all the trees change colour, I guess a bit like a New Hampshire autumn.
Mutinondo is way off in the Northern Province on the trd to Tanzania. We are also only a few hours from the Africa House, an amazing story of a crazy English guy who built a statley home in the middle of the bush, you should read it.

It's owned an run by a Zambian/Kenyan couple as conservation area, they make some money from tourists to fund their work. It's in the middle of nowhere and there are few amenities but it doesn't feel that way especially with the clever use of solar power to deliver electricity where needed. And when you have views like this what more do you need? We went for a walk today, it was meant to be a couple of hours strolling along the river and catching the small waterfalls along its course. Sadly we missed a turn and ended up on a bit of a route march and did a 21k round trip. As you can imagine we were ready for lunch which was awesome. They have established a kitchen garden here so we were plied with wonderfully fresh veg & salad and the piece de resistance.... a truckle of amazing cheese, none of which is easy to get in Lusaka let alone 8hrs into the bush. all washed down with an ice cold beer from the "honesty bar" It's Sunday and this time we find the right turn and wander along the riverside until we get to paradise pool and have lunch (Packed lunch provided by those lovely people at Mutinondo) and a bit of dip. After lunch it's time to say goodbye and head back to the big city.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lower Zambezi

Mmm. I'm way out of date on this so bear with me as I catch up; imagine yourself back in the balmy days of last summer.

I'm waiting at Lusaka International Airport for the plane to land and my butterflies to settle, fortunately, unlike Dad's flight the planes on time although Helen's a week late. She was offered a second interview for a training contract last week. Which posed a dilemma, attending meant cancelling her ticket and having to buy another but the prize is big. It's worth the risk. A glimpse through the doors sends a shot of adrenaline through me and moments later she's here. It's comfortable and easy, things are gonna be fine.

We're off the Lower Zambezi this weekend, I blagued a great deal on 5 star lodge from a friend of a friend, know what I mean, at the Royal Zambezi. We set off early as despite being only 250k away it will take us over 5hrs to get there, could quite afford flying into their private landing strip.The first part of the drive is tarmac heading south towards the Zim border. It's one of the most picturesque drives in Zambia and the road is pretty good apart from a few booby trap potholes. The sight of overturned lorries keeps you honest though. This is normally as a result of brake failure or mythical modern day highwaymen who lay traps on the rd to overturn lorries and then rob them.

Once we get to Chirundu it's dirt track all the way apart from a short ferry crossing. 3hrs later with only one or two mishaps we make it and it's worth it. Our "Tent" is super awesome and hardly deserves the title of tent. We have a balcony with our own private plunge pool, bath & shower and stunning views of the river

After settling in and lunch we took a cruise on the zambezi, we have the boat to ourselves, wow. It's not long before we come across a group elephants and their young taking a mud bath by the side of the river, which we enjoy for a while.

After an hour or so the sun begins to and the G&Ts appear, mixed at industrial strength. It's difficult to take in the enormity of it all, I guess an enourmous G&T helps, it was special moment.

Up early in the morning for a game drive in the National Park. The park is stunning set between the river and the mountains sadly virtually no game today.

After lunch we take another cruise and get up close and personal with an hippo.

The river is even wider and more impressive here, the combination of serenity, simplicity and scale takes your breath away.

That night we dine on a small island in the middle of the Zambezi complete with fancy tables and candelabra, from there off for a night drive. The morning disappointment is soon forgotten as we come across a leopard lounging around after pretty big meal by the looks of things. She doesn't seem in the least concerned by us and looks disdainfully on. It never gets boring seeing leopards.

The following morning we canoe on the Zambezi or more accurately we are taken by speed boat up river to where they have driven our canoes, given a guide/rower and gently amble down the Zambezi to the lodge, followed by another guy in a canoe with drinks. Just time for another marvelous lunch and off. We're held up at the ferry for an hour but back in Lusaka by 9pm and ready for Mutinondo!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A visit from Ken Bates II this time it's personal

Friday sees heading East to South Luangwa national park, some 9.30 hrs drive away. Most of the drive is on pretty good road but the last 130k is on a dirt track that is heavilycorrugated. I’m told to drive at 60kph otherwise the car will feel likeit’s gonna fallapart, which is true. The only problem i

s that at that speed it feels like the car will slide off the road any second, a bit of a roller coaster.We arrive late afternoon and dad is introduced to the wildlife immediately as I nearly run over two Giraffe who are meandering down the dirt track to our camp, Flatdogs. We’re staying in a posh permanent tent with proper beds and ensuite outdoor shower & toilet (Thanks for paying dad). It’s right on the edge of the river Kafue overlooking a raft of Hippos who are snorting & grunting but otherwise doing nothing. There’s a large elephant stool 2ft from the tent, I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

Next morning I go on a walking/driving safari & dad on a drive (Claims of bad ankleand all that). My trip is fascinating but mainly consists of studying dung whilst the old boy gets to see a leopard, a herd of Buffalo & a parade of elephants walking trunk to tail. I’m not sure he realises how lucky he is, people spend their whole lives hoping to see a leopard. In the afternoon we watch the Lions (British Lions) take on SA and nearly come back from the brink to snatch victory. It’s hard to be that disappointed when you’re somewhere as stunning as south Luangwa. The next morning we do a drive together and have great fun tracking Lions and follow a herd of stampeding impala, who we think are being hunted by the lions.

It turns out to be wild dogs on their trail. Whilst not as glamorous as Lions they are way more rare and quite a spot. We stop for tea in the Giraffe’s front room as our guide puts it which is also amazing. We spend the afternoon in camp watching a “Tower” of Giraffe wandering around the camp and a single Bull elephant meandering through it. I’m not sure the health &safety boys would be happy about this.

That evening the piece de resistance a night Drive. We start at 4pm and mooch around until sunset where we stop for G&T’s and an opportunity to drop our jaws at the all round splendour of our surroundings.

Whilst here our guide hears tale of a badly wounded Lion who’s been in a scrap with another male, he’s strayed into the wrong territory. A bit of a moral dilemma here, is it voyeuristic to find it and have a gawp, maybe, but we’re gonna do it anyway. The poor thing really is in a bad way, intestines hanging out and barely a movement from the chest cavity. The vet’s on the way and they’re hopeful of saving him but as rule it’s the law of the jungle here and they rarely intervene.We see some still lights and investigate, there’s a leopard in them there trees and our guide and spotter gently tease it out. We follow it for a few minutes, most of which I spend busily deleting photos from my camera as it’s decided that this would be the perfect

moment to tell me memory card is full. It’s an amazing animal and surprisingly small, still wouldn’t fancy taking it on though. Next stop, an eagle owl hidden away in a culvert, god knows how the spotter saw it and whilst not as thrilling as Leopards an incredibly rare find. As we head for a pride of Lions we’ve heard about we come across another stationary vehicle and get our second Leopard spot of the night

We’ve become blasé about leopards and move on quickly to find the lions which we duly do, a pride of about 6.

They are the females & younger males of the injured Lion we saw earlier, the guide gets uncomfortably close. Apparently unless we move they think that we’re just one big animal and will leave us alone. One young male saunters past our open topped car within stroking reach of me, needless to say I didn’t move. We were then privileged to watch a hunt. One young male left the group and circled a grazing Puk

u whilst the rest got into stealth mode, spread out and made their way towards the unfortunate beast. Almost immediately it knew something was up and stood stock still waiting for events to unfold. The team from the south were pushing him towards the lone male in the

north, good military tactics here. Inexplicably the lone lion in the north decided to arc round and approach the Puku from the east which opened up the north for it to flee, schoolboy error my friend back to Sandhurst for you. After all the excitement back to camp for dinner and a few beers before retiring as we head off at

5.30am the following morning. We wake to hear from our tent guard that a Lion killed a buffalo outside the tent 2 doors down from us during the night, health & safety really wouldn’t have been happy about that one. So off we go, stopping in Nyimba for Tea & Muffins at Sarah’s (Canadian VSO) on the way. We get back to Lusaka early evening and I take dad for a pint at Poritco to round off what’s been an awesome couple of weeks, look forward to your next trip Ken!